Faerie Dance

From Final Kingdom MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
Faerie Dance
Date of Scene: 19 December 2012
Location: Wutai
Synopsis: "Kefka" (?!) does horrible things to Terra. Maleficent "saves" her. PG-13 for violence against moogles.
Cast of Characters: Terra Branford, Maleficent, Kefka(?!)

Terra Branford has posed:
The hill shrine had been chosen less for its value as a shelter, and more for its value as a landmark. Shako, the leader of the Imperial Guard accompanying them, had noted the existence of a town nearby, a trading hub. It was to be the first real town they'd visited; thus far it had been only small villages, and it offered some new risks. It would have guards, for starters. Wanted posters, perhaps. The political situation in the provinces wasn't well-known to Shako, and so the decision had been made to leave Terra for the day so that they could ascertain the risk.

It drizzled, unfortunately. The shrine had a roof, but it only extended two feet past the stone statue it was there to shelter. Terra chose to sit right at the foot of the statue, which was only vaguely humanoid now, its age and considerable neglect having taken a toll. Shako had tried to light the incense sticks resting in a sand-filled bowl in the statue's cupped hands, but they were soggy.

Now, about an hour later, Terra picks up one of the sticks herself. She spins it back and forth by rubbing her thumb and forefinger together for an aimless few minutes, then tilts her head. A soft creaking sound issues from the sodden wood as it dries, fragrant tendrils of steam lifting into the damp air. A moment later, the tip of the stick ignites with a little puff. It didn't blow up, but that was still too much power. Her training had emphasized accuracy, but not precision. There was a difference.
Maleficent has posed:
All of a sudden, there is a moogle.

"Kupo?" it asks, tremulously, as it sticks its head, antennae-first, around a pillar to gaze, adoringly, up at Terra. Its huge eyes fill with love and trust. Raindrops cling to its puffy white fur, occasionally beading together into streams that trickle down its nose to plop onto the ground.

It seems to recognize her as a kindred spirit, for it lifts its arms in the air and does a little hopping dance of... welcome? Relief? Bouncing from left to right, it scatters more water across the floor of the shrine. Boing! Boing! Boing! To the top of the statue it leaps, gaily turning a pirouette on its forehead, eager to make its newfound audience smile.

Then it scurries back out, into a narrow and moderately tree-filled ravine, around a corner, and out of sight.
Terra Branford has posed:
Even Terra can be scared by a moogle if it shows up so suddenly. The incense stick makes a soft rushing sound, and is suddenly in flames, forcing Terra to drop it from singed fingers. She can't burn herself with her own fire, but any fire she causes in another object isn't her fire. The poorly socialized girl had compared this accidental magic use when startled to a dog peeing the floor, a crude analogy that Belle had endured with good grace.

Putting her forefinger in her mouth (ugh, the incense doesn't taste as good as it smells), Terra's great big emerald eyes follow the moogle's dance, and she erupts into a giddy giggle. "Hi there... oh!" Shielding herself from a spray of raindrops, Terra applauds lightly when the moogle ascends the statue.

"What are you doing out here?" Terra asks, rising to her feet. She is going to hug this moogle, it gets no say in the matter. It escapes her, but only temporarily. "Hey! Wait for me!" Terra leaves her satchel on the ground and skids a little as she steps on the slickened hill trail. Reasserting her footing despite the poor grip on her red slippers, Terra keeps her balance by extending her arms at her sides, and hurries down the ravine, hopping over roots and pushing aside branches. "Moo-gle!" she calls. "Where are you?"
Maleficent has posed:
Where indeed.

Terra's question is answered quickly enough, after she treks through a quarter mile or so of tangled woodland and the leftovers of a rockslide; boulders have crushed roots, and are now being shattered from within by the resurgent plant life. A beautiful circle of destruction, and fairly difficult terrain, but not unmanagable. Afterwards, it widens into a proper clearing. A faerie ring, as it were, with thirteen giant toadstools.

Atop each one stands a moogle. A whole family of moogles! There are the older trio -- one is a widow, perhaps -- and then the younger generation, and one younger, still, barely more than a baby. They are all dancing to the sourceless sound of a shrill, frenetic flute, which pipes gleefully up and down.

Their little feet are quick and skillful, their steps and jumps all in perfect unison. Almost too perfect, though a moogle reel is said to be among the highest forms of dance, lovely and light. And yet... there's something slightly jerky in the bounce of their antennae, and their eyes are bright, but not with joy.

Something else is contained within those beady black orbs... pain. And mind-numbing fear.

The tops of those toadstools were not always such a very blood red. Their more natural brown color is dimly visible beneath the stains.

And the flute plays on...
Terra Branford has posed:
Terra's breath is quickened by the terrain, her slippers spattered with mud, as she comes out into the clearing. It's chilly enough that just the tiniest hint of visible breath comes with each exhalation as she drinks in the scenery with open-mouthed wonder. She'd only read about places like this. There was a picture in one of her moogle sticker books, too, but to see it...

She feels a little seize in her chest. Memory? Why would she have a memory of a place like this? She was born in an army camp, raised there. And the Empire didn't conquer toadstools.

Shaking her head, Terra approaches closer. She doesn't know how to join a dance like this, so she starts clapping out a rhythm. The flute is a little dissonant, but she'd listen to the Nail Chalkboard Suite if she got to see such an adorable dance.

Rocking back and forth a little as she claps, Terra feels ill-at-ease. Empathy kicks her in the gut; the moogles are in pain? But... that red color on the mushroom. Her clapping slows to a stop, and she turns around, feeling like the ground is whirling beneath her. Every toadstool is covered in that nauseating color. Terra knows what blood looks like. She knows all too well. Her breath comes faster and faster.

Whirling back to face the moogles, Terra shakes her head as if in denial. "I don't understand... what should I do? Tell me how to help you! Please tell me!"
Maleficent has posed:
The moogles are so breathless from their helpless dancing that none of them seem able to verbalize so much as a kupo, much less an explanation. But one is rapidly forthcoming from their eyes, which edge up at the tree in the middle of the clearing.

Upon the second-highest branch of that tree dances the moogle who found Terra in the first place, and he is the flute-player. But he has an added piece of jewelry, now, one that he didn't have before. A steely, metallic circlet graces his brow, one that is as familiar as a mirror.

The moogle father is being forced to literally dance his family to death. Right on cue with that realization, the first moogle -- the baby, of course -- falls off his toadstool, unconscious or worse.

"Uwee hee hee!"

Well, one out of two amused spectators ain't bad.

His smirk being twisted into a snarl by his harlequin makeup, Kefka Palazzo stands on the very, very highest branch. He surveys his work, and it is good.

"Don't you want to join the dance? They're just /dying/ to have you join them!"
Terra Branford has posed:
Terra freezes up when she sees the circlet. She knows right then. There doesn't need to be a laugh, she doesn't need to look up. She's known this was coming ever since her own crown shattered, and lived in fear of it ever day.

But of course there is a laugh, one which frays her heart like an overused violin string. And of course she does look up, her eyes already a little dead. "I'm sorry," she bleats reflexively. She doesn't know what she's sorry for (running away?). There was never any evidence that saying it helped. But at least it was something she could do, a button she could press, whether or not that button connected to anything.

Emotions and magic slosh back and forth inside Terra as her heart pounds. "Let them go, please," she says. She can't not watch, even though it tortures her. She knows Jasmine would say, "It's me you want," and if it came down to it, offer herself in the family's stead. She hated herself for not being Jasmine, and the pain in the innocent moogles' eyes scalded her with guilt as well as horror.

But no one could understand. Kefka had always been psychotic and cruel, but the Slave Crown didn't just keep Terra from running away. That was its least important function. What really made it valuable to Kefka is that she couldn't harm herself. Until that point he couldn't make her do anything that she would find worse than nonexistance. For most commanders, there wouldn't be much of anything that removing that limit would permit them to do.

For Kefka, it was like a great unexplored continent, and he the conquistador with telescope and map.

Terra's little fists are shaking. "M-my friends are coming back," she lies. "You don't have much time." Phrase it like she's looking out for him.
Maleficent has posed:
Kefka's eyes disappear into the thin, stretched folds of his face as he glares at her. The expression contracts the bloody tears painted on his face into tiny knives. "Yeah, you are pretty darn sorry," he sneers... but then his eyes twinkle, the shift from dark fury to maniacal humor as sudden and dangerous as ever.

Another one of the dear little creatures perishes, the great-grandmoogle's heart bursting from the strain. His daughter lacks the ability to speak, but somehow she manages to emit a tiny little groan, which whines on the air, no louder than the passing of a mosquito, to perch within the jester's ear. It makes him shiver from the crown of his head to the tips of his toes with pure, unbridled glee.

But not as much as the shaking of Terra's hands does.

His voice sweetens to a razor's edge of crystallized saccharine. "I'd say you always loved moogles, but then, a weapon doesn't really have feelings." Now it's just a razor, period. "A weapon doesn't have dreams. A weapon doesn't have /hope/." Saliva rains on the head of the slave crowned moogle as he spits out the word, explosively expelling it from his mouth.

Holding an arm outstretched to his right, Kefka signals, and the flautist begins to endlessly trill a note, on and on and on and on and on. This extended breath is probably his last.

"So, riddle me this: are you a weapon? Or are you not?"
Terra Branford has posed:
Terra feels a humiliating sort of relief at being insulted as 'sorry'; being disdained is one of the safer of the universally dangerous ways in which Kefka can regard a person. When the elderly moogle perishes, however, relief evaporates. Terra buckles along with the fallen innocent, and with one hand on her stomach and one on the heaving ground, she vomits.

She's not as strong when she gets up. "Please, stop it," she says. A spark of lightning links her hand and the ground spontaneously; it doesn't startle her. She's overflowing, and she knows it. "I'm a weapon. I have no dreams. I have no hope." She sounds numb, but panic is shredding her. If this doesn't stop soon, the father will...

"I'm a WEAPON!" she shouts, and lifts her finger, supporting that wrist with her opposite hand as a bright blue lance of raw energy rips from her fingertip. Tamp it down! Thin as a razor! She can't slow the torrent of energy jetting from her fingertip, but she can contain it. She has to.

It works. The beam is tight and sharp, and it shatters the flute effortlessly, without harming the father. The beam disappears off into the forest, lancing through branch after branch. Terra almost has a chance to exhale, when she sees it.

The heat from the beam blossoms outward, and the lower branches of Kefka's tree open up wide, several yards simply transmuting to ash. They weren't touched by the thin beam, but it was much, much too hot. She has just long enough to realize what's happening before it happens to the father moogle, before an invisible sphere of heat swallows his body.

Terra's head drops dramatically to one side, like a doll with a broken neck. "I'm sorry," she babbles. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
Maleficent has posed:
Kefka howls with laughter, screams with it, the giggles wracking his body with spasmic contortions as Terra folds, so easily, so deliciously easily, back into his hands. "Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee! Yes, yes, yes!"

Until Terra defies him. Then all of that good humor is gruesomely, and silently, transfigured into rage.

He waves his own hand, and the shards of the flute glitter in midair, their edges honed to razor sharpness, then fly at the few remaining living moogles, slaughtering them all effortly. Shot through the heart, and you're too late.

A moment later, he notices the burning husk of the moogle father beneath him, and his palm flies to his mouth with surprise. "Oh! Oh! Ohohohohohoho! How embarrassing... you were doing my will after all!"

Bells jingling, Kefka leaps down from the now burning tree, and begins crossing the clearing with strides every bit as bouncy as the moogles whose death he so carefully conducted. Each step devours distance between himself and his prey...

...until they're arrested by the light. It is very, very green, not at all the natural oranges and reds of the forest fire Terra has started, one branch at a time. The flames transmute into this strange emerald hue, then extinguish from their surface, streaming through the air to gather, pulsing, in the orb of the staff of a tall, statuesque figure who has exploded into the space between master and slave.

Her arms spread wide, the flametongue shreds of her robe spreading outward in an intimidating mantle, Maleficent gives Kefka an icy stare.

"Get the hell away from her, you--"

Whatever she might have said in her chilliest of imperious tones is cut off by the jester's raucous bawl. He flies at her, and she releases the condensed energies she's so painstakingly collected. They consume him; at the last minute, his scream is cut off by his departure, which warps space with a telling 'pop'!

The rest is silence.
Terra Branford has posed:
Terra covers her mouth with both hands--one wouldn't have been enough--and shrieks. The moogles drop one by one, shards driven deep into their flesh, the Terra-beloved softness of their bodies a grim liability in Kefka's world. She keeps her mouth manacled as she hyperventilates through her nose. Steam rises constantly from her body; anywhere the a drop of water touches her, it turns into a small evaporated puff.

It's telling that her eyes are both pouring with steam.

Terra doesn't have the will to resist as Kefka bounds toward her. All she can do is stare at the corpses of innocent moogles, dead because of her, one quite directly. He's going to hurt her somehow, now, that's a given. Pathetically, she uses the death of an innocent to shield herself; pain knows no morality. "Please! Kefka, I killed him for you. Wasn't it more fun that way? You l-like it so much when they burn..."

Celes would never prostrate herself like that. She'd die first. But if Celes were here watching, Terra would have said the same thing.

Terra shields her face from the sudden heat as Maleficent coalesces from verdant flame. She stands in mute wonder as Kefka is gone before she even understands what is going on. After a few moments, she drops to her knees. She doesn't ask Maleficent any questions. She just shudders, eyes blank, arcane energy occasionally sparking on her flesh like a bare wire.
Maleficent has posed:
/Just/ before he's gone completely, Kefka responds to Terra's plea with a saucy wink.

But then there's nothing left but ash. Ash and corpses, thirteen in a ring, and one lack of a corpse, vaporized completely by the aftereffects of the Esperkin's beam.

Ash and corpses and a sorceress.

Power shudders within her, too, in catastrophic, apocalyptic quantities -- quite possibly for the first time in Terra's life, she might be sensing the magical aura of someone even mightier than she. Her sparking energies are drawn to Maleficent like moths to the flame, dancing across her green skin, and she doesn't even flinch.

She kneels, instead.

Kneels before the weeping girl, her shadowy skirts in a pool all around her, as though she's rising out of the darkness, or perhaps sinking into it, and gently slides two fingers under her chin. More sparks arc between them, the connection having been made, but they don't seem to trouble her in the slightest.

The gesture is a request, not a command, as is the accompanying phrase, which drops like chips of ice from her lips; Maleficent at her most comforting is only marginally less creepy than usual.

"Look at me," she murmurs. Her own eyes are no less beadily black than the moogles', for all that they're surrounded by a rather yellowed hue, stark against her skin, skin nearly as green as Terra's hair.
Terra Branford has posed:
Terra might well have been expected to be startled, possibly even afraid, of someone with more arcane power than her. But she has experienced this before, once, though she was far too young to remember. It was her father, a lord of Espers. If there's any tendency in feeling such raw, numinous energy, it's one of comfort.

The pale, shuddering girl permits her chin to be taken, lifted. Obediently she meets Maleficent's chilly eyes. "You're the queen of the faeries?" she asks in an almost inaudible rasp. Here too late to protect her moogle friends.
Maleficent has posed:
"Yes, my dear," Maleficent confirms in a low, pleased purr of affirmation; some part of her /loves/ Terra's assumption, while some other part simply accepts it as her due. Who else could possibly lay claim to the title? That dumpy twit with the pumpkin? The blond tart who consorts with crickets? Ms. Pink or Ms. Blue? Feh.

She gazes deeply, soulfully, into the girl's eyes, and her smooth voice silkily drops an octave, dipping into a rich, throaty alto. "I wish I had been faster." It's the closest she can come to an apology; 'I'm really /very/ sorry' might be more effective sympathy, but even playing a part, the most she can express is regret, not remorse. The Sorceress Supreme /never/ apologizes. "Alas, some things, once done, can never be undone."

She could be referring to her own tardiness, or Terra's mistaken murder. One guess which one she's hoping the girl will feel.
Terra Branford has posed:
The sheer size of the lump Terra swallows down her pale column of a throat is confirmation that Maleficent's hope comes true. She is metaphorically on the tips of her toes, transfixed by Maleficent's dark gaze, her chin light on the sorceress's fingertips. "Your majesty," she ventures, then bubbles, "your majesty! I'm sorry. I killed the moogle father. And it's my fault the rest died. I am the most contemptible..."

She restrains herself, not because her voice will break or she'll start crying (lost battles both), but because she is going to literally explode if she loses all control. She'll survive it, of course, but the clearing won't. The lightning on her milky skin plays constantly up and down, now, linking her and Maleficent's shadowy robes and green skin with a dozen irregular tongues of magic. She'd really like to fire off all this power somewhere, but even in a forest--and especially in a Fae Queen's forest--it would be too destructive. Firing it straight up would be too conspicuous.
Maleficent has posed:
"Shh," Maleficent croons, her motherliness turned up to eleven, which lands somewhere above cruel monster and below gentle lifebringer. Middle-management motherhood. "No more of that."

Her eyes close for a long moment, as though she's got weighty matters on her mind, and is considering her choices. When they reopen, they are thoughtful. "I can take your burden," she promises, "But only if you let me."

Her second hand floats upwards, like a spider carried on a breeze-bourne web of lies, to rest upon Terra's forehead like a saint performing a benediction. "Let it out," she implores, in the exact way that a parent might tell their daughter it's okay to cry. "I will make sure you do no more harm." Twist that knife!
Terra Branford has posed:
"But..." Terra looks afraid.
Maleficent has posed:
Maleficent's eyes flash; she does not like reluctance, it seems, and has little patience for it. "Very well," she almost snaps, and at the very least hisses, a bit. Drawing herself up to her full, towering height, her shadow is long and dark as it falls across Terra, backlit by a portal of green flame that abruptly roars into life behind her. "As you wish. Unlike the clown, I would never /force/ you to do anything."

She takes two steps towards her egress, then glances back over her shoulder, her dramatic timing impeccable. Her tones mix the poisoned honey of persuasion with an imperious promise. "But if you ever wish to be freed of your pain -- truly freed, to have it lifted from your heart, that you no longer feel the knives of guilt, of regret, of grief -- call for me, and I will grant that wish, as well."

And then she's gone, as quickly as she arrived, leaving a clearing of corpses, ash, and one other.
Terra Branford has posed:
Reverse psychology is a hell of a thing. Terra immediately regrets not taking that unique opportunity. She's going to have to stew in her own power for a long time, now. She pushes that aside, though, in favor of a sudden and ravenous curiousity. "Your majesty, wait! I..."

Her hand extended, Terra lets her wrist go limp. No more regret? How could that be possible? It was a menacing prospect, to be sure... the Queen had said explicitly that some things couldn't be undone, so probably Terra was being promised some method of turning off her own guilt, of damaging her own humanity.

Standing in that clearing, holding the cold corpse of a young moogle child in her arms, that was not seeming like such a terrible loss.